Why mince words – I’m appalled that former President George H.W. Bush was selected in the Lifetime Achievement category for the World Golf Hall of Fame. The only place he should be honored in St. Augustine, Fla., home of the Hall of Fame, is down the road at Potter’s Wax Museum.
What’s he being inducted for anyway – playing fast? For making some public service announcements for The First Tee? For, as the press release states, attending every Presidents Cup? What, did he threaten not to show next year in Melbourne, Australia?
President Bush already has been feted in golf circles with the 1997 PGA of America Distinguished Service Award, the USGA’s 2008 Bob Jones Award and the 2009 PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award. That’s fine and dandy, but the Hall of Fame is supposed to be for a select few, for the greats of the game. Bush’s selection dilutes what is promoted as “golf’s highest honor.”
To be sure, my rant isn’t politically driven (I voted for Bush in the first election for which I had that right). I didn’t agree with the selection of President Eisenhower in 2009, but there’s at least credible evidence that golf grew in popularity in this country because Ike made golf cool.
I can name 50 people more deserving of the honor than Bush, people who really served the game and made it better. It minimizes the achievements of those previously selected in this category, and it’s a slap in the face to the likes of Ken Venturi, Frank Chirkinian, William Powell and Dan Jenkins – just to name four that jump to mind – who are more worthy of enshrinement.
Which brings me to the bigger problem: the Lifetime Achievement and Veterans categories are determined by the World Golf Foundation Board of Directors (Can anyone say “popularity contest’’?). According to the WGF’s Web site, this cushy group consists of:
Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA
Jim Armstrong, executive director of Augusta National
Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A
David Fay, executive director of the USGA
Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour
George O’Grady, executive director of the European Tour
Michael Whan, commissioner of the LPGA
Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation
Not only have the power brokers of the game proved unqualified to make these decisions, but this reeks of conflict of interest. For instance, should Finchem be voting on the candidacy of Pete Dye, the 2008 Lifetime Achievement selection, when Dye has built countless TPCs for the Tour? Or Steranka, who has scheduled majors at Dye courses such as Whistling Straits this year and Kiawah Island in 2012? Instead, members of the Golf Writers Association of America, who vote on the PGA Tour and International ballot, should vote for this, too. Otherwise, “golf’s highest honor” will remain just what it is – another empty slogan.